Written by Meredith Kane
Emily Herron was given a deep appreciation for fashion from an early age. Growing up just outside of Toronto, her parents impressed on her the idea that no matter your financial situation or where you are in life, you can express who you are through the way you dress.
“My parents used to take us to a million thrift stores, and we would spend hours — my sisters and I — browsing through the racks. So I feel like I’ve always loved beautiful things, but I’ve also always been mindful about spending. We were never frivolous, but it wasn’t as if we lacked anything, either. This was just another chance to get creative with what we had.”
Emily’s childhood definitely fostered her dreams of having a career in the fashion industry, though at the time, she wasn’t fully sure what that would look like. Even though she had an innate sense clothing was supposed to be fun, she started erring more on the practical side of things as she got older. “I kept thinking, ‘Okay, this is what society says fashion has to be.’ I slowly tucked my dreams away, placing those hopes and passions on the shelf, in favor of practicality and doing something that made more sense.”
As an adult, Emily tried her hand at a myriad of jobs, all the while dancing around her true desire to start her own clothing line. She worked in merchandising at a boutique for some time before teaming up with a local wedding stylist. “I would tell myself, ‘Well, I’m still doing something in the creative industry. And it’s okay to make money at something that just makes you happy, even if it’s not your truest passion.’”
But despite these subtle words of affirmation, Emily couldn’t shake the need to create something all her own. As her twenty-sixth birthday was approaching, she began having a self-described quarter-life crisis.
“I realized I wasn’t doing anything I really wanted to be doing, and I knew my life would keep going that way unless I made a drastic change. That’s when my ‘lightbulb moment’ happened, and when I finally admitted to myself that I was trapped in my own fear — fear of failure, fear of what other people were going to think. These fears were keeping me from accomplishing what I truly wanted, but at a certain point, you have to finally do what’s inside of you.”
With that, Emlee was brought to life in mid-2015. Since the line’s inception, Emily has maintained her vision for creating one of a kind, luxury basics for women. “I feel like my process is less about designing for someone imaginary, and more about creating for the real people in my life. I like to consider the women I know and what I think they would wear. Rather than trying to create an ‘ideal customer,’ I think about my mom, my sister, or my best friend. If they were to go into their closest, what pieces would they be drawn to? I feel like if I can create something they’ll love, then there’s a good chance other women have the same needs or have a similar aesthetic.”
In addition to the careful consideration she gives each of her designs, Emily also puts a lot thought into the fabrics she chooses and the production processes she implements.
“There’s unfortunately an incredible amount of waste in the fashion industry, but I’m trying to start small and reuse materials as much as I can. I’m releasing just a few things each season, because my focus is on creating investment pieces that will last.”
Emily hopes her brand will encourage people to take a closer look at the ways they spend their time and money. “A friend once told me we don’t realize how powerful our voices are, and that our money can actually be viewed as votes. Every time we purchase something, we’re telling big corporations or small companies what we believe in, and what our values are. Sustainability and the ethics behind my brand are a direct representation of my own personal values. I want the people who purchase from Emlee to be confident in the product, so every aspect of my business reflects what’s important to me; I’m making sure the actions I take have a ripple effect for good.”
It’s safe to say that ripple effect is ever-increasing. Emlee has been incredibly well-received since its debut last fall, and Emily continues to add new pieces to the collection every season. She’s thrilled by the warm response her line has received, and is quick to credit her community for the success she has seen.
“I feel like Nashville has such an entrepreneurial spirit, but people aren’t afraid of others doing well because they feel like that raises the bar — it just means that more amazing things are going to happen here. I don’t know if I could have pursued Emlee anywhere else, because I have such a strong support system in this city. It’s like everybody’s trying to create something incredible, and so we’re all trying to create something incredible together.”
Stylist: Elliott Sikes Taylor
Photographer: Ashtin Paige
Written by: Meredith Kane
Location: Brentwood, Tennessee
Makeup Artist: Kat Derickson
Hairstylist: Breanna Williamson